Belfast Telegraph

My mother was petrified, says sister of murdered boy after killer's escape

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The sister of a Ballymena schoolboy murdered in a brutal sectarian gang attack has described her horror when she learned her brother's killer had absconded after being allowed out of prison.

Jodie McIlveen questioned why Christopher Kerr had been allowed on an accompanied release, and described the distress the escape had caused their mother Gina.

Kerr (32), from Ballymena, escaped custody in Belfast on Thursday before later being arrested in the Antrim area.

It's believed he was in Victoria Square as part of his phased release when he gave guards the slip.

Kerr was jailed in 2013, and it is understood he was not due to be considered for release from Maghaberry Prison until at least 2021.

Ms McIlveen (28) said: "He should not have even been let out, he is a danger to the public and more so he is a danger to my family. Yesterday was absolutely terrifying for me to let my children out because he could have just popped up anywhere."

She added the incident had been traumatic for their mother.

"She has been in an absolute state, really bad. It is just like day one all over for her. It is never-ending," she said.

"And to be told this, she was absolutely petrified. She couldn't sleep in her own house last night.

"It is worse when you have to get cameras put up around your own home, because that's what you're living in. It's fear."

Ms McIlveen said the Prison Service told her family that Kerr was on the scheme for accompanied release, but they were not given specific information about when he might be released.

"I feel like we have been let down. I just cannot understand or get my head around how he was let loose by a prison guard. I just can't understand it," she said.

After news of Kerr's escape emerged on Thursday, Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said the Prison Service had "got it wrong yet again" by allowing him to abscond, and his party had called for rules around day release to be tightened on a number of occasions.

Ms McIlveen said she supported action to reform the system for accompanied release.

"I just think that what they are getting is very low, it is very minimum. They don't deserve it. They do not deserve day release. I don't care how long they have been in prison. It is like a walk in the park for them," she said.

Michael McIlveen (15) died the day after he and two friends were attacked in 2006 by a group of loyalists, one of them wielding a baseball bat. Kerr and Aaron Wallace, from Moat Road, who was also convicted of the murder, failed to have their convictions quashed last year.

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